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FORM: Celebrating the craft skills of the Silversmith

Gill Wing Jewellery

Exhibition at The Goldsmiths’ Centre as Part of Silver Speaks 1st June - 22nd September 2016

FORM was curated by Anne Kernan, designer & tool lover who has worked with many big jewellery names. This free exhibition was held at The Goldsmith's Centre as part of Silver Speaks, a year of programs celebrating 20 years of Contemporary British Silversmiths.  

The beauty of working in silver and its inherent malleability gives the silversmith the freedom to express themselves through this unique material.
— FORM, Anne Kernan 2016

 

The unique idea behind FORM was that the favourite tools used by each silversmith were also exhibited alongside the exquisite silver objects they created.

"Bryer", Set of Six Bowls, Claire Malet, FORM 2016

"Bryer", Set of Six Bowls, Claire Malet, FORM 2016

Our gallery team at Gill Wing Jewellery are also all makers ourselves, so we were excited to see an exhibition which showcased the hardworking tools behind the precious silver pieces.

Silver Camping Set, Brett Payne, FORM 2016

Silver Camping Set, Brett Payne, FORM 2016

One of the most popular tools in the exhibition was the hammer.

Strike

-to apply force, to deliver a blow, to use pressure

Strike describes the physical action of shaping materials by adding force. The ancient technique of using hammers and tools to shape precious materials into functional and decorative objects has existed for many centuries. Contemporary silversmiths continue these traditions to create their work, maintaining a strong link with the metalsmiths of the past.
— FORM, Anne Kernan 2016

 

Placing such a heavy, rugged object next to a beautifully finished piece of luxury silverware shows the contrast between the two. It makes you think of the expert skill used to make such a fine and delicate looking piece from such a brutish object, but hammers really are some of the most cherished items in the makers’ toolbox.

Silversmiths' hammer from FORM exhibition 2016

Silversmiths' hammer from FORM exhibition 2016

Using and handling a favourite hammer is like having an old friend sitting next to you. The tools give you confidence, it’s as if they know what you want them to do. The feel, the balance, the weight are all very important. They fit in the hand like a glove and are as much a part of the maker as any other part of the body
— Rod Kelly
Hammer shown at FORM Exhibition, featuring a beautiful shapely handle

Hammer shown at FORM Exhibition, featuring a beautiful shapely handle

As well as the solid steel (or iron) head, you also notice how the handle is worn smooth from decades of use, where it may have passed through several maker’s skilled hands.

The wooden handle of this hammer in the exhibition bears a special mark

The wooden handle of this hammer in the exhibition bears a special mark

Amidst the marks of wear and tear, and sometimes a manufacturer or maker's mark, old tools are often hand carved with more than one set of initials as it's found it's way to different owners.

The rhythmic, patient process of creating forms using a hammer can be described as an almost meditative dance between silversmith, tool and material. An instinctive connection is made between brain, hand and eye, and hammer strike- harmonious interplay that leads to a wealth of possibilities. Hammering techniques lend themselves to fluid forms, tactile shapes and surfaces.
— FORM, Anne Kernan 2016

Many thanks to the silversmiths for sharing their stories about their favourite tools in this exhibition. They must have missed them terribly whilst they were in the display, but hopefully they will be reunited with their trusty allies soon to make more wonderful things together.

To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail
— Brett Payne, FORM: Silver Speaks